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Thursday, June 18, 2009

ANOTHER ALABAMA ALLIGATOR

One of the things about the Fortean omniverse I have always found entertaining is the way that stuff always happens in batches. On the same day that I received this story
about alligators in Alabama, I also received this series of photographs and what purports to be a news story:



"The picture to the left was taken by a KTBS helicopter flying over Lake Wiess about 90 miles north of Birmingham, Alabama. The helicopter pilot and the game warden were in communication via radios; following is a transcript of their conversation:

"Air1, have you a visual on the 'gator? Over. "
"Approaching inlet now; over."
"Roger, Air1."
"'Gator sighted. Looks like it has a small animal in its mouth. Moving in; over."
"Roger, Air1."
"It's a deer!"
"Confirm, Air1! Did you say 'deer'? Over."
"Roger. A deer, in its mouth. Looks like a full-sized buck . That's a BIG 'gator! We're gonna need more men. Over."
"Roger, Air1. Can you give me a idea on size of animal? Over."
"It's big... 25 feet long...at least! Please advise; 'gator is heading to inlet... Do I pursue? Over."


That has to be a HUGE 'gator to have a whole deer in its mouth! The deer was later found to be a mature stag and was measured at 11 feet! Are you ready to go skiing on Lake Wiess ?! If you ski at the west end of the lake, try not to fall!

This alligator was found between Centre and Leesburg, Alabama, near a house! Game wardens were forced to shoot the alligator... guess he wouldn't cooperate.

Anita and Charlie Rogers could hear the bellowing in the night. Their neighbors had been telling them that they had seen a mammoth alligator in the waterway that runs behind the Rogers' house but they dismissed the stories as exaggerations. "I didn't believe it," Charles Rogers said; however, they later realized the stories were, if anything, understated. Alabama Parks and Wildlife game wardens had to shoot the beast. Joe Goff, a 6'5" tall game warden, walks past the 28-foot, 1-inch alligator (8.5 metres) he shot and killed in the Rogers' back yard.

We sent the pictures to our resident herpdude Richard Freeman who wrote back:

"The Alligator with deer in its mouth was real. The 28 foot 'gator was bad photoshop. The biggest 'gator ever recorded was 19 feet 6 inches and shot in Louisiana in 1890. The biggest in recent years was about 15 feet.
The only crocodilian reliably measured at over 28 feet was a 28 foot 4 inch Indo-pacific croc."


I would like someone with a knowledge of North American deer to take a look at the first two alligator pictures and try to give us a more reliable size estimate.







42 comments:

dragonladyw said...

White-tailed bucks don't generally grow to more than 6 or 7 feet long. That's still a good-sized 'gator.

Beth, Florida, USA

Jason Pratt said...

From West Tennessee, home of all deer... {g} (And, more pertinently, home to basically the same kind of deer as in extreme northern Alabama...)

The second photo, taken nearly top down, provides the best proportional shot. From chest to rump, the deer is slightly more than 1/2 the nose-to-tail length of the gator (or so says my CAD scaling program). Mature stag == roughly 5' chest to rump (or so say guys in shop who live with and around deer hunters). Adjusting slightly for slight-off-vertical angle, gator is thus roughly 10' nose to tail.


As it happens the crane shot of the gator is probably close to scale; it may be photoshopped, but it isn't 28 or 25 feet.

JRP

Retrieverman said...

I've seen those exact same photos, claiming they were taken in Missouri! (Where there are no alligators, as far as I know).

http://eagle102.typepad.com/morning_show_blog/2008/05/alligators-in-m.html

My guess is that it's from one of the Gulf States or Florida.

Retrieverman said...

I would say that the alligator in the top photograph isn't more than 12-13 feet long. The average white-tailed deer is about four feet at the shoulder. The southern subspecies of white-tail can be significantly smaller (Bergmann's rule).

The 'gator appears to be about 3.5-4 times longer than the length of the deer's foreleg and shoulder. I'm making the assumption that it's a subtropical white-tail, and therefore, a bit smaller than their northern cousins.

It's a big bull 'gator, but not a 20 footer.

Darren Naish said...

Hey Jon

The alligator with the deer was apparently 12-13 ft long. See...

http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/gatordeer.asp

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

A little sniffing around on the internet revealed that this photo is not in fact new, but has been kicking about since 2005.

The original story places the animal in question, a 13 foot long American Alligator, in Texas. It was killed in the back yard of a home in the Bar X Ranch on FM 521 near West Columbia; the grid coordinates being approximately 29° 8.367'N 95° 33.493'W but this only accounts for the photo of the dead alligator, not the shots of the live one with the deer in its mouth.

The original article is here: http://www.thefacts.com/story.lasso?ewcd=86dd3c1ea51fe00d and the photograph is credited to Val Horvath, the staff photographer for that small newspaper (both the man Val and the newspaper do exist, BTW).

According to Snopes, the original article has resurfaced a few times since, with the location of the events being changed first to Florida, then to Alabama and the length of the animal being exaggerated to 23 feet on the first re-telling of the tale. The photograph seems to be authentic, with a zoom lens being responsible for the size mismatch of the animal; this was probably done to get everything in the photo in focus at once.

Given that the story is a hoax and the original animal was shot as a pest by a game warden in Texas because of reports of an alligator booming (territorial vocalisation) in the nearby river, NOT because of sightings from an aircraft, I am thus extremely skeptical of the supporting photos of the alligator.

I'm primarily an entomologist and parasitologist and my reptile identification skills are sadly lacking, so can anyone determine the species of the crocodilian in these photos? I wouldn't put it past someone to use stock photos of an indo-pacific salt water croc in a hoax, so can we narrow this down at all?

Celliach said...

I'm not convinced that's an adult deer. In both the photos there are areas that appear to be white spots on the deer. It hard for me to tell because I have no idea how to enhance the photos. White spots are characteristic of juvenile deer, and now is the time to see fawns of this coloration in that geographical area. Maybe someone that knows how to look at this photo better can get a more complete view of the deer carcass and confirm. or otherwise, whether or not it's spotted.

Celliach said...

If this was a fawn in the gator's mouth, I would estimate the gator's length at ten to twelve feet, possibly as large as fifteen.

Celliach said...

Just one more thought, I don't know how they're measuring that stag, but if it was 11 feet, like it says, then you should be doing an article on the monster deer too!

momthecoach said...

A quick "hoax" check shows that this pic was taken in 2004 by Terri Jenkins, an officer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service over the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge about 40 miles South of Savannah, Georgia.
She was aboard a helicopter that was igniting prescribed fires in the refuge when the 12 to 13-foot alligator was spotted swimming with the full-grown deer in its mouth.

momthecoach said...

A quick "hoax" check shows that this photo was taken in 2004 by Terri Jenkins, an officer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service over the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge about 40 miles South of Savannah, Georgia.
She was aboard a helicopter that was igniting prescribed fires in the refuge when the 12 to 13-foot alligator was spotted swimming with the full-grown deer in its mouth.

Retrieverman said...

I've done some recalculations, and the typical white-tail in this region is somewhere between 3 and 3.5 feet tall at the shoulder. So it's between 9 and 11 feet long.

Howevever, that's assuming that the deer is a buck.

I have reasons to be skeptical that the deer is a buck.

1. You cannot see antlers on the deer. In the summer months, the antlers will be visible on a "big buck," even from this height. They will be in velvet.

2. The deer are this coloration only in the summer months, so I would expect to see antlers, if the animal were a mature male deer.

3. It's much more likely a smaller doe or young buck. The mature bucks get that way by being very wary and clever. I doubt that a mature buck would try his luck where there are large alligators.

If it's not a mature buck, then the calculations are all off, and this alligator is smaller than the photo suggests.

I don't know whether alligators exist in Weiss Lake (not "Lake Wiess).

You're almost in the mountainous parts of Alabama there, so I doubt that there could be an alligator there.

Now, the ones in Wheeler Lake sound more promising, for there were alligators released there in 70's.

However, I'm not familiar with Alabama's mountains. It seems to me that Wheeler Lake is closer to Middle Tennessee, which does have a more temperate climate than the mountains do. I hope someone could clarify that for me.

PartialMitch said...

I'm from Kentucky and have lived in various parts of the southeastern US throughout my life. I grew up hunting deer and other animals (and even had a few close encouters with Gators in the Carolina's, Georgia and Florida).

Your average deer in that part of the country is about 5 feet from nose to tail, with big bucks growing up to about 7 feet long total.

To be honest the carcass in that pic doesn't even look like a buck to me, it looks more like a female. I'd guess that gator is about 8 or 9 feet long, tops. Or perfectly average for that part of the world.

PartialMitch said...

I'm from Kentucky and have lived in various parts of the southeastern US throughout my life. I grew up hunting deer and other animals (and even had a few close encouters with Gators in the Carolina's, Georgia and Florida).

Your average deer in that part of the country is about 5 feet from nose to tail, with big bucks growing up to about 7 feet long total.

To be honest the carcass in that pic doesn't even look like a buck to me, it looks more like a female. I'd guess that gator is about 8 or 9 feet long, tops. Or perfectly average for that part of the world.

BBinder said...

North American Deer range in size from 50 to 250 lbs. as an adult. Cannot tell the species. It is either an eastern white tail, Which tops out at 150 lbs., or a fallow deer which maxs out usually below 50 lbs. Even if it is a big whitetail that would put the gator between 10 to 15 feet. Large but Not unusual for an american alligator

Shivakumar said...

It looks about 18 feet using the game warden as a ruler

Shivakumar said...

It looks 18 feet long appx if i use the warden as a ruler. Massive for an alligator

David Lee said...

This one has been around the internet for a few years now. As is often the case Snopes has the facts.

chris said...

A couple of thoughts on this one.

First, whitetail deer in the south are smaller than deer in the north. I would estimate this deer at 4 ft from withers to rump.

That would make the alligator in question approximately 12 ft in OAL and 6 ft snout to vent with a 6 foot tail.

I disagree that the photo is altered. It is very real. It is simply the product of a skilled photographer who knows exactly how to use the position of the subject and the angle of view to influence perspective distortion.

In simpler terms, the camera is slightly higher than the officer's head which is almost even with the bed of the closer of the two pickup trucks. (This also indicates that the officer in question is nowhere near the 6'5" stated.) The alligator is also much closer to the camera than the officer and is elevated off the ground by the crane arm (obvious in the photo).

All together this creates the appearance of a monster alligator when in reality it isn't really that big.

Recent examples of this phenomena involved a "giant" bear killed in Alaska and supposed foot long solifuges in the desert of Iraq.

Chris

chris said...

This is my third attempt at posting a comment. Blogger doesn't seem to like me.

First off, whitetail deer in the south are smaller than the ones in northern states. I would estimate this one at 4 feet
withers to rump.

That would make the alligator in question approximately 13-14 feet OAL and 6-7 feet snout to vent with a 6-7 foot tail.
In short, not a monster but a very large animal.

Secondly, the photograph is real and unaltered. It is the product of a skilled photographer familiar with using perspective
distortion to make his subject appear larger than it really is.

In short, the alligator is 1) suspended off the ground (notice the feet and tail) and 2) much closer than the officer in the photo (judging from the crane arm I'd
say 10 feet closer). These facts combine to make a good sized alligator appear freakish in size.

Recent examples of this technique (intentional or accidental) can be seen in photos of a "giant" bear killed in Alaska and "monster" sun spiders found in Iraq.

Now that I think about it, I've decided to conduct my own photographic experiment to demonstrate this.

Chris in Ohio

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

You're all missing one salient fact: the dead alligator and the individual with the deer in its mouth are not the same one.

The dead one was shot in an area which doesn't have a river anywhere near as big as that pictured, and in any case no helicopter was involved in its shooting or finding.

This is a hoax report using pictures cobbled together from two different sources.

Jason Pratt said...

Dr. Dan,

Uh, no, most all of us commenters either explicitly noted that the craned gator is not the gator in the overhead photos, or implicitly noted this (by just focusing on the one in the water and coming up with sizes somewhat less than the apparent size in the crane photo.) Some of us (not me) explicitly mentioned that the crane photo is a trick-of-perspection shot (whether intentionally so or for purposes of getting focus on both objects, gator and officer); just like you did.


The original post also directly indicates that the two animals are not supposed to be the same, even though both stories supposedly come from Alabama. Momtheranger seems to have tagged the helicopter shot as coming from 40 miles south of Savannah, GA. As you noted, the other one seems to be Texan. The Alabama designation for either one is a hoax, consequently, though not a hoax of the same story.


Incidentally, I thought about mentioning that the deer might not be full grown (and/or might be female), due to a lack of antlers, possible spotting; but deer aren't my thing (I had to ask around to get a chest-to-rump estimate for an adult male). I'm glad other people brought it up. Whatever age/sex the deer is, it's certainly about 1/2 the nose-to-tail length of the gator; so my 10' estimate may be on the high side.

JRP

Sharlait Great Danes said...

There is a simple way to measure the hoisted alligator. The strap used to hold it to the bucket is 4" wide.

denise said...

Thats a bloody big gator

Jon Downes said...

MICHAEL MALONE WRITES: Just saw your post on the Alabama Alligator with a special white tail deer lunch. There are lots of problems with the story.

The first thing I noticed was the call letters of the TV station. In the USA, radio and TV stations are issued a four letter call sign. The first letter gives a very general idea as to the location of the station. Stations west of the Mississippi River get a K while stations east of the Mississippi River get a W. Alabama is east. So the fact that a helicopter from a station west of the Mississippi is helping a state agency in Alabama is suspect.

KTBS is in Shreveport, Louisiana not Birmingham, Alabama. What would a helicopter from Louisiana be 500 miles out of range working with another state's game wardens? While not completely out of the realm of possibility it seems unlikely. Alabama is home to the Army's elite helicopter school, and can call on the Army for help with Helicopters at any time. Plus, the state has a small fleet of their own helicopters.

Additionally, the website for KTBS makes no reference to the fact that the station has a helicopter. While not definitive, it is unlikely a small market station like Shreveport would have a helicopter and not promote it on the website.

Also, it's Wiess Lake, not Lake Wiess. Not a big mistake, but the kind of thing a reporter should get right. It is near Centre, Alabama and that is in the Birmingham television market. So they got that much right.

Deer in North Alabama do not usually get to that 11foot claim. We tend to have smaller deer than the norm here, and a normal white tail deer is less than 90-100 inches in length. That would be one heck of a record deer if it came in at 132 inches.

Finally, in my research for gators I'd come across the picture of the Alligator swimming with a deer in its mouth before. The full story of the pictures is more interesting. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFW - A federal agency) worker by the name of Terri Jenkins was in a USFW helicopter preparing to ignite a controlled burn in the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia. She spotted the gator with lunch in its mouth and took the pictures. It was a 12-14 foot gator, big but not unusual. You can find the real story of the pictures here:

http://www.southeasternoutdoors.com/wildlife/reptiles/article/alligator-eats-deer.html

Another version of the story is floating around the net. You can get the 23 foot deer story pretty much unchanged from your version except for location (and no transcript between the helicopter and ground) here:

http://officespam.chattablogs.com/archives/2008/01/Pretty-scary.html

As for the picture of the crane with the officer in the background, I'm not sure where it comes from. A Google search finds the image usually associated with the 23 foot gator story. I'm not sure if it is a photoshop or a forced perspective image, but no gator of 23 feet has ever been found, much less photographed. And as a final note, that is NOT the uniform of an Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officer (game warden). For one thing, it is much to neat, these guys spend days and weeks in the wild. And for another, it's the wrong color. They have kakhi shirts and green pants, not a tan uniform. He looks more sheriff than warden.

Anyway, that's the opinion of the REAL North Alabama Gator Hunter. For whatever that may mean!

Michael Malone

Jon Downes said...

JAMES HELFIN WRITES: Hi Jon--

I really enjoy your site tremendously. And also--here's a link to Snopes that provides some good research about the provenance of the photo of the big gator:

http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/gatordeer.asp

I'm not sure I buy either the estimate of the gator's size or of the deer's size. I grew up in the Deep South, and I've seen some big gators and plenty of deer--I just can't imagine an 11-foot deer is possible. That would be far larger than anything I've seen. It's hard to tell through the water, but it doesn't look as if that's a deer with antlers, so a few feet, not 11, would be reasonable. The gator could therefore be within the range the Snopes article says, 12-14 feet, but I'd venture a shot-in-the-dark guess that the upper end of that range or maybe as big as 15 feet would be right. For what it's worth...

thanks,
James

chris said...

I hadn't even realized that the story claimed the deer was 11 ft. Jus another reason why the whole story surrounding theh photos is utterly laughable.

chris

Andrew said...

I see gators everyday and ive been around some 12 footers, thats at lest a 15 foot gator and maybe little bigger. A deer is about 4 foot from front of its back shoulder to the back of its front shoulder making the gators mouth about 2 feet wide.

Michael said...

this gator is between 10 and 14 feet, its 2x the length of the deer from chest the tail. that measurement on most whitetails ranges from about 5 to 7 feet. I'd say this one conservatively is about 12 feet. nothing spectacular

chadpatrick said...

For what its worth, I live on Weiss Lake in Centre and never head about this. I've lived here 15 years. My uncle works for state conservation in the area and he as well said he never heard of it.

chadpatrick said...

Go to www.tineye.com Its a reverse image search on the net. You put in the pic url, and it shows you all other sites that its indexed thats using the same pic, no matter if its cropped/resized/etc. As you can see from the results returned, theres quite a few other sites with differing stories, particularly one about a lake in florida where it seems more likley

JDawn said...

Florida seems more reasonable to have a large gator. I was born & raised here and spent a lot of time around the Everglades, and I have seen some HUGE gators, up close and personal. (On an airboat!)

Someone mentioned someting about crocs, and south Fla has the only crocs in the US. The easiest way to tell the difference, is that crocs have skinny snouts.

Did anyone see the pics of the Python that burst open with a large gator inside?? Large snakes are becoming a real problem in S Fla. Stupid people turn them loose when they get so big. Unfortunately, they are competeing with Floridas' natural wildlife and feeding on stuff that the native wildlife should be dining on. The Keys are infested with Iguanas, for the same reason, and on the south west coast, Cape Coral, is being overrun by giant lizards. (I forget what they are called.)

Don't believe everything you read or see, and check at Snopes.com to be sure.

charles said...

I grew up on wiess lake at a place called Tabs Fish Camp and learned to swim,fish,and water ski, when i first heard about this i was like man this is crazy because as much time as i spent running the lake in my dads boat and swimming all over the lake it self i would have seen a gator or at least i would have thought i would have anyway. As it turns out i have found the same pic from about 3 or 4 states and seems to me that the same game warden Mr.goff works for all these states, that leaves me to belive that someone is lieing and this needs to be stopped. just my thoughts...if you need to contact me just send me a e/m gawfceo@yahoo.com God Bless

Kristi said...

I think it's absolutely disgusting that game wardens shot and killed this magnificent animal. What a pity that poor animals such as these and others (even sharks) don't stand a chance against humans. It's a wonder they all don't go extinct with the killing, and overpopulation of humans who are taking over THEIR HABITAT!

Andi said...

I say as an avid hunter and observer that is not a buck or it is a very small one. The gator is most likely between 16 and 18 feet maybe a little less.

Ron said...

Spanish Moss does not grow at Lake Weiss or in the area. I've been to lake Weiss plenty and have never seen Spanish Moss there. The pic of the hanging gator has to be in the deep South. I don't live far from Lake Weiss and the Moss will not grow. I've even planted it on trees and it just dies. Too far north to grow.

sharkbait said...

With the deer in its mouth the gator looks to be anywhere from 12 to 15 ft. how far up in bama do gators live

ll_trance_ll said...

Im not sure if everyone is really paying attention. The gator in the photo with the game warden would appear to easilly be over 20 feet long. As stated the game warden is 6'5" tall not to mention the machinery holding the gator up. Their claims are to the 28 foot gator which this picture would substantiate these claims. As for the one in the photos with the deer, it would appear to be atleast 15 feet unless that is a mature buck which would then make it a much larger alligator.

lifehealthmore said...

the photos in the water were taken in louisiana. in bossier city lake near shreveport. and it was by KTBS helpcopter which is a sherveport station. they are real photos. i saw it on the KTBS local news report. lots of big gators around here. the photo of the dead gator is from south texas and is an exagerated angle making it look bigger than reality. in other pics from the original story its true size is seen. it was a a nice gator but not a monster like it apears in the photo.

lifehealthmore said...

this was a shreveport KTBS news story from a few years back. Caddo lake in Bossier City. and yes they have a helocopter. Sheveport is not that small a city they have lots of helocopters in service. the water photos are real from Shreveport the other is annother story from south texas. saw both on local KTBS news in Texarkana, which is broadcast from Shreveport LA. STOP THE DISTORTION. TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION.

stedler said...

As a fan of all crocodilians, especially the American alligators& Australian salties, (as long as I'm not in the water with them). I can confidently tell you it's an American alligator. Crocodiles have a more tapored snout, and their jaws are even all the way around and teeth in both upper & lower jaws tend to over lap the other jaw, where as the alligator tends to have a more blunted broader snout with an over bite and it's upper teeth over lap the bottom jaw.

stedler said...

As a fan of all crocodilians, especially the American alligators& Australian salties, (as long as I'm not in the water with them). I can confidently tell you it's an American alligator. Crocodiles have a more tapored snout, and their jaws are even all the way around and teeth in both upper & lower jaws tend to over lap the other jaw, where as the alligator tends to have a more blunted broader snout with an over bite and it's upper teeth over lap the bottom jaw.